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Water-to-Wine Cooler 


Make Projects 

build, hack, tweak, share, discover, J 

Water-to-Wine C 



Written By: Pierre Michae 


Bolt cutters (1) 

Diagonal cutter (1) 

Drill (1) 

High-speed rotary tool (1) 
e.g., Dremel 

Multimeter (1) 
Safety glasses (1) 
Scissors (1) 
Screwdrivers (1) 
Soldering iron and solder (1) 
Step bit (1) 


Wire strippers (1) 


Water cooler (1) 

Home Depot sells these for $120. 

4-relay development board with AVR 

microcontroller (1) 

Olimex #AVR-IO-M16. 

Potable water pump (1) 

Attwood #6142, 

Gravity valve (1) 

from eBay seller valves4projects 

Float sensors (3) 
search eBay 

Plastic containers (1) 

Water-cooler jugs (2) 

Tubing (1) 

from a beer brewing shop 

Acetal copolymer tubing (1) 

McMaster #1808112, 
http-J/mcmas ter. com 

Sprinkler riser (1) 

Power supply (1) 

LEDs, 3mm-5mm (1) 

Voltage regulator IC (1) 

Switch (1) 

Hookup wire (1) 

Wire connectors (8) 
such as Molex 

Bulkhead fittings (2) 
from an aquarium store 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Barb fittings (1) 

Extra barbed fitting assortment (1) 

NPT (pipe thread) couplers (2) 

Funnel (1) 

Bubble wrap (1) 

Hose clamps (2) 

Machine screws and nuts (1) 

DAP 100% silicone adhesive (1) 

Heat-shrink tubing, assorted (1) 

Duct tape (1) 

Teflon tape (1) 

Electrical Tape (1) 

Double-sided tape (1) 

Cable ties (1) 
aka zip ties 

Rubber band, thin (1) 
Connectors, assorted (1) 


Our longhaired friend Greg was planning a Jesus-themed birthday party, and people joked 
about a cool possible prop: a machine that would seemingly convert water to wine. "Hey!" we 
thought. "We can do that!" 

So we got to work, while the others just dreamed. A week before the party, we obtained a 
ceramic-crock water dispenser, sprinkler valves, aquarium pumps, and assorted PVC 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

fittings. We made a glorious mess nearly every time we tried to create the illusion, because 
we would inadvertently start a siphon that we couldn't stop. 

At the last minute before the party, we made it work, but it wasn't pretty. The wine container 
sat on a shelf behind the cooler while the guts of the system sat on the floor — all of it 
draped with sheets, making it obvious that some shenanigans were taking place. The 
partygoers were still impressed, and the effect was certainly delivered. But with our 
improved intuitions about fluid dynamics, we vowed to remake the Water-to-Wine Cooler as 
the awesome contraption it deserved to be. 

We brainstormed by drawing block diagrams until we found a simple design we liked, then 
we shopped for a water cooler. An important requirement was the ability to electrically 
capture the mechanical action of the dispense button, covertly. We eventually found a GE 
water cooler that was perfect. It had hot and cold sides, so we could dispense wine out of 
the cold side, and for those in the know, room-temperature water from the hot side. We 
figured we could finish the project that same day; it ended up taking a couple weekends. 

For the gurgling effect, we tried pumping air into the water bottle, without letting any water 
flow out. But we quickly saw that the excess pressure would have no place to go, unless we 
put a small vent in the top of the bottle — and if we did, water would back-flow through the 
air pump and start a siphon. Again. 

Our solution was to hide an identical water bottle below, for the top one to drain into. This 
lets the water level decrease over the course of the party, which is more realistic. When the 
water gets low, you just swap the bottles, and you're back in business. For easy during- 
party maintenance, we added a fill port for the wine and LED indicators to notify us if 
something needs attention. 

The finished Water-to-Wine Cooler is indistinguishable from a normal water cooler, and we 
can stand at a distance and chuckle as our unsuspecting friends go from shock, to 
bewilderment, to amusement. 

W2W Design 

In the unmodified GE cooler, the inverted jug on top empties into a reservoir with two pipes 
coming out, one to the refrigeration unit and the other to the heating element. We rerouted 
one pipe directly to the hot water tap, and the other one to a gravity valve that controls flow 
to the second jug hidden inside the bottom of the cooler. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

We also added a plastic reservoir that holds the wine for dispensing, a switch triggered by 
the cold water button, and the electronics and hydraulics to translate a button press into a 
simultaneous draining of water into the lower jug, and pumping of wine up into the cold-water 

Control comes from an ATmega AVR microcontroller development board with 4 relay 
outputs. The inputs to the board are a small switch triggered by the cold water tap, a water- 
empty float switch, and a wine-empty float switch. On the output side, 2 relays control the 
water drain valve solenoid and the pump that dispenses the wine. The board also controls 3 
LEDs, swapped in for the GE cooler's original status LEDs, which flash to show that the 
software is working and indicate empty water and empty wine inside. 

Finally, a wine-full float sensor connects directly to an LED that shines through a small hole 
in back, bypassing the microcontroller, to let you know when to stop pouring refill wine. The 
W2W has a lot going on inside, but after you remove the compressor and heater from inside 
the cooler body, and if you use a 3-gallon jug in the bottom instead of a 5-gallon, it all fits. 

The result? A miraculous illusion where water glugs down from the bottle to emerge 
mysteriously from the spigot as wine. To throw your own sacrilegious party, check out these 
complete build instructions. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 




j * 

• For this project you'll need to do some soldering, drilling, cutting, and simple 
microcontroller programming. Total project cost is about $300. 

• You'll also need to grab our Water to Wine (W2W) code for the AVR microcontroller: 
https :// robotics/water-t. . . or party robotics/water-to- 

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Cold Water Valve ^ 
Water Reservoir 
Plastic Shelf 

Wine Reservoir^ 
Metal Shelf 


Hot Water Valve 



.Gravity Valve 

. Power Supply 

Wine Pump 

Here's the block diagram that shows how all the components of the system interact. 

And here's the layout diagram showing where all the secret components will go inside the 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

• First, remove the top cap on the water cooler with a half turn. 

• Remove all visible screws in the cooler, and strip it of all excess insulation, tubing and 
wiring. Don't throw anything out yet; you'll need some of it later. 

• CAUTION: The metal chassis can be sharp, so take care not to cut yourself. 

• Work with a friend, as extra hands will come in handy. We took our time, about 3 hours 
picking apart the guts, and it was fun seeing how the water cooler works and how its 
mechanisms inside are packaged. 

TIP: To keep track of where the small screws come from, it helps to label pieces of 
duct tape and add the screws to the sticky side. 


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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

• Refrigerant compressors made 
before 1995 may contain 
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which 
harm the ozone, so you need to 
take them to a refrigerator repair 
shop where they can safely 
evacuate those gases. 

• Our compressor was new and 
contained R134A refrigerant, which 
is not illegal to vent, but still 
contains greenhouse gases. I used 
heavy bolt cutters to cut and 
quickly crimp the copper tubing to 
minimize leakage. 

• WARNING: This is a job 

best done outdoors, and you 
should avoid inhalation and skin 

• If in doubt about your compressor, 
call a local refrigerator repair shop 
or learn more at . 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

• Remove the water reservoir (surrounded with foam insulation) and set it aside; you'll reuse 

• Finally, remove the LED assembly behind the front panel. You'll substitute your own LEDs. 
You should be left with an empty chassis. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 6 — Mount the hi 


Add a 4" extension to the mini lever switch and superglue it in place. We used a scrap of 
aluminum sheet cut with tinsnips. If your switch has a roller on the lever, that can be a 
useful attachment point. 

The hot and cold dispense buttons activate the valves inside by pushing plastic sliders. 
Position the switch body on the plastic bracket on the hot water side, so that the cold 
water slider will click down its lever. Make marks for its mounting holes. 

To secure the switch, drill and tap #2-56 screw holes. We used metal screws, but plastic 
screws would probably be better because the plastic is pretty soft. 

Screw the switch into place and make sure you get reliable clicks when the button is 
pressed from the outside. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

• Make the float extensions by cutting 1/2" acetal tubing: a 4" length for the water sensor, a 
3/4" length for the "wine is full" sensor, and a 4-1/2" length with a 2" right-angle extension 
for the "wine is empty" sensor. For this extension, drill the main tube, or miter both tubes, 
then glue the extension on with silicone. 

• Thread the bottom of each tube with an M8 tap, and screw each sensors into its tube, 
feeding the wires through. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

© Make Projects Page 11 of 22 

Water-to-Wine Cooler 

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Use a step drill to make a 1-1/8" 
hole in the cooler's back cover for 
a bulkhead fitting, and another 
small hole for the "wine is full" LED 

to shine through. 

TIP: Step drills are great for 

drilling thin material. They X 


make much cleaner holes than 
spade bits or hole saws. 

The wine reservoir is made of 
polypropylene, which has a great 
combination of chemical 
resistance, availability, cost, and 
workability. It's usually milky in 
color and marked with the number 

In the bottom of the reservoir, drill 
a 1-1/8" outlet hole and mount 
another bulkhead fitting. Keep 
placement in mind because you'll 
need to make a matching cutout in 
the metal shelf it sits on. 

Drill a hole in the side of the 
reservoir to fit the "empty" right- 
angle float sensor. It's best to 
make this hole high up on the 
container to minimize potential 

Drill 2 holes in the lid: one for the 


full" float sensor, the other for the 

wine fill tube. Both holes should 
roughly match up with holes in the 
plastic shelf above. 

• Mount the wine float sensors and 
use silicone glue to seal any gaps. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

• Make 4 holes in the water cooler's 
lower, metal shelf: 2 to match the 
holes in the pump container lid 
(make sure there's space for the 
pump outlet barb to poke through), 
one for the pump connector to pass 
through, and one for the flex riser 
to pass through. 

• Use a Dremel or other high-speed 
rotary tool to make a cutout in the 
metal shelf for the wine reservoir's 
bulkhead fitting. 

Step 10 — Enclose the wine pump (optional) 

The wine pump sits in a plastic 
snap- 1 id container of its own, 
surrounded with bubble wrap to 
quiet it down. This is optional since 
the pump comes with its own 
mounting bracket, but silencing the 
pump improved the illusion. 

Make 2 holes in the pump 
container, one for the wine inlet and 
one for the pump wires. 

Make 3 holes in the pump container 
lid: one for the pump outlet, and 2 
for machine screws that will 
suspend the container under the 
cooler's metal shelf. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 11 — Replace the LEDs. 

For the W2W status indicators, use the cooler's original front indicator panel, swapping in 
your own green, blue, and red LEDs and their matching resistors. 

On the LED circuit board, desolder the LEDs and resistors, and clip off the diodes. Solder 
your new green, blue and red LEDs in place, adding 560Q, 1kQ, and 390Q resistors, 
respectively. Crimp a 4-pin connector to the wire bundle and install the board back in place 
with 2 screws. 

Step 12 — Wire up the power supply 

• Solder the end of a standard power 
cable to the power cord wires 
inside the water cooler. 

• Connect the cooler's original power 
switch to the output side of your 
power adapter, using spade 

• Insulate all individual wire 
connections, and each bundle, with 
electrical tape or heat-shrink 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 13 — Wire up the microcontroller board. 

• Polarity doesn't matter for the mini lever switch, gravity valve, and float switches, so you 
can solder a same-color wire pair to each of these components. Then connect matching 
wire pairs to the control board's screw terminals, as seen here in yellow, white, and green. 

• The pump wires are polarized, so connect a different-color wire pair here — in our case 
brown for power, black for ground. 

• Crimp Molex connectors onto all wire pairs, so you can plug the matching pairs together. 
This makes the cooler easy to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance, and foolproof to 

• Solder and crimp a connector for the power input to the logic board that matches the output 
of the power supply brick. 

• In the center of the board, connect the blue, red, and green LEDs, respectively, to GPIO 
pins PA7, PA6 and PA5. The black wire goes to ground. 

• NOTE: Since all the inputs are used up, you'll wire the "wine is full" float sensor 
directly to the LED pointed out the back of the cooler, later in Step 23. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 14 — Adjust the pump voltage (optional) 

• We had to play with our pump voltage to get the desired speed. Although the pump was 
rated for 12V, using 5V gave us the perfect flow rate to match the water flow rate. So, we 
soldered a 7805 voltage regulator on the board to get us there. The gravity valve runs 
directly off 12V. 

• In this photo, all red wires are power, all black wires are ground. The heavy red and black 
wires extending to the top are 12V and ground coming into the board. 

• Along the right edge in this view, the red wires are tying one end of the terminal block high, 
to 5V, so that when a float sensor is triggered and closes its circuit, the microcontroller 
can detect a signal going high. 

• The black wire below and to the left of the chip is the grounding of the black LED wire from 
Step 1 3. 

• The voltage regulator hanging off the board gets 12V from the red and black wires going to 
it, and has 10|iF electrolytic capacitors on both the input and output for stable operation. 

• It may be useful to refer to the board schematic: 
https ://www. ol i mex . com/Products/AVR/Deve. . . 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 15 — Mount the water reservoir, 


Wrap Teflon tape around the end of the metal tube going to the cold water valve. Attach a 
34" length of 3/8" tubing and use a hose clamp lined with a thin piece of rubber to secure it 
in place. The other end of this tube will connect to the pump's output barb. 

Similarly, clamp a 23" length of 3/8" tubing to the metal tube coming out of the side of the 
water reservoir. The other end of this tube goes to the input of the gravity valve. 

• Replace the water reservoir in the 
chassis. Attach the opaque white 
tubing coming from the hot water 
valve to the bottom of the 
reservoir, using 2 small zip ties to 
secure it. 

• Attach the float sensor with a 4" 
extension to the tube inside the 
water reservoir using a ziptie. Feed 
the wires through the tube and 
crimp a connector on. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 17 — Attach the water sensor. 

For the "water is empty" sensor, attach a straight float sensor to the metal vent tube that 
runs into the water reservoir. 

Anchor the sensor with a zip tie, and run its wires out through the tube. 

Step 18 — Mount the pump. 

Connect the power supply and 
attach the pump lid underneath the 
metal shelf using 2 machine 
screws and nuts. 

Stuff the pump container with 
bubble wrap or foam around the 
pump and use the flaps of the lid to 
lock the container in place. 

Attach the tube coming from the 
cold water valve to the pump outlet. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 19 — Mount the gravity valve 

• Feed the gravity valve's wires up 
through a corner hole in the plastic 
shelf, and then mount the valve in 
the hole. Attach 1/2" couplers on 
both sides using Teflon tape. 

• Run the flexible sprinkler riser from 
the bottom coupler through the hole 
in the metal shelf. 

• Attach a 3/8" barbed fitting to the 
top coupler and connect the hose 
coming from the water reservoir to 

Step 20 — Mount the wine reservoir, 

• Attach a 3/8" barbed fitting to the bulkhead and glue it in place with silicone, since the inner 
threads are straight and not tapered. 

• Set the assembly on the metal shelf and connect a 14" length of 3/8" tubing from the 
bottom barb to the wine pump inlet. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 21 — Attach the microcontroller board. 

Download the W2W code from GitHub at or 
https :// robotics/water-t. . . and then upload it to the microcontroller. 

Attach standoffs to the logic board and use double-sided tape to attach it to the inner wall 
of the chassis in an accessible spot. 

Mate all the connector pairs. Connect the switch and reattach the top cover. 

Step 22 — Add the secret water jug 


• Put a 3gal water bottle in the lower compartment with the flex riser going to it from the 
gravity valve. Unfortunately, the standard 5gal size doesn't fit, so use the 3gal size for 
easy swapping. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 23 — Connect the wine fill port. 

Assemble the back cover by attaching a bulkhead fitting through the large hole and 
attaching a right-angle barbed fitting to the bulkhead. 

Attach a length of tubing to reach down about halfway into the wine reservoir, about 10". 

Attach the "wine is full" LED to the water reservoir using duct tape. Connect the LED to the 
float sensor in the wine reservoir lid and make sure it lines up with the hole in the back 

Attach the cover and grate with their original screws. 

Step 24 — Make the refueling funnel. 

Slip-fit about 8" of tubing onto the bottom of the funnel, and on the other end attach a 3/8" 
barb to a 1/2" NPT fitting. This threaded end fits into the wine port bulkhead for party in- 
flight refueling. 

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Water-to-Wine Cooler 

Step 25 — Fill ... and empty. 

Power up the machine. All the lights flash briefly to let you know the code is running 
properly and all the LEDs are hooked up. The code implements a simple state machine 
with all the inputs and outputs. There are 5 main states: Idle, Dispense, Out of Water, Out 
of Wine, and Out of Water & Wine. 

The top green LED is on whenever the machine is on. The blue LED lights up when water 
is out, and the red LED when wine is out. 

Test that the sensors turn the appropriate LEDs on, then fill with water and wine, checking 
for leaks. The first time the pump is run, it will take about 30 seconds to prime; this is 


But I Just Wanted Water!" 

We took the W2W to a "cocktail robotics" event called Barbot, at the DNA Lounge in San 
Francisco. Several contraptions were dispensing all kinds of alcoholic concoctions, and 
attendees bought RFID "coins" that they would insert into the different machines for their drinks 
to be dispensed. 

Our RFID reader wasn't working, so we served as the "RFID readers" for the Water to Wine. On 
a couple of instances, someone would come up and mutter under their breath, "Oh, thank 
goodness, water!" only to be disappointed. One woman came up to the machine and dispensed 
wine into her cup. Her eyes widened, and she apologetically said, "But ... but I just wanted 
water." She seemed defeated. We always laughed and pointed out that the hot water button 
would dispense plain water, but no one ever tried out the hot water button on their own. 

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 34 in the Build Notes section. 

This document was last generated on 201 3-02-1 7 05:35:39 PM. 

© Make Projects 

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